April Fools & Fiction

April Fool’s Day was last week, and boy oh boy, was I fooled good.

So good, I felt I needed to share about what happened in a blog.

This is what happened:

I forgot it was April Fool’s Day.  I was very much aware of the fact that it was April 1st, and it finally felt like spring with a nice breeze and bright sunshine and birds chirping and flowers blooming.  So I went for a run.  And when I got back, I checked my email.

They’ve finally seen the light.

This was the subject heading from a progressive activist group whose emails I receive.  Intrigued, I clicked.

In a stunning turnabout for democracy, several of the billionaires who were cascading cash into the coffers of right-wing candidates and super PACs have seen the light.

Wow, I thought.  That’s pretty amazing.

I continued to read.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, industrial titan David Koch, home construction mogul Bob Perry, and inventor of the leveraged buyout, Harold Simmons — who collectively spent hundreds of millions backing far right candidates last fall — will now be supporting…

This is great!  I thought.  Actually, this is incredible!

I continued to read, convinced that conservative donors will be pouring their billions into progressive campaigns, fighting for causes that matter deeply to me.  And then I read,

April Fool’s!

Crushed and a little offended, I finished deleting the junk in my email, before going on to Facebook.  These are my usual rounds- Email, Facebook, Twitter.  Email, Facebook, Twitter.  And I just added instagram too.  Email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  Somehow I find the time to live my life between posting about living my life.

But I digress.

I was on Facebook.  And my alma mater, Hampshire College, posted a little update with the picture of a blue origami frog, explaining to followers that the college, finally acknowledge how uniquely gifted their students are, will no longer award graduates with diplomas, but instead individualized origami figures.

And I believed them.

Until I read the comments.

And again, I remembered.

April Fool’s.

Somewhere between logging out of my email and logging in to facebook, I completely forgot about April fool’s day.

Tricked again, I was just about to turn off my computer and give up on the day, when I noticed an announcement from Gmail and watched this video:

I am extremely gullible.

Even on days that aren’t April 1st, I am too trusting, easily fooled, and will follow along with any story.  Well, almost any story.  Perhaps instead, I should say, I will believe any story told by someone I trust.

This brings me to fiction.

I have been doing a terrible job as a reader these days.  I can remember college, when I read two novels per week– easily over 500 pages– and I wonder, How the hell did I do that?

Well, I wasn’t doing anything else at the time– except writing.

There have been a couple things that have killed my reading habits most recently: I have been driving to my part time job and I have cable at home, as well as a plethora of distractions online.  I have found that reading takes time.  If my time disappears, so does my availability to read.

But something else has happened too.

I stopped believing fiction writers.

This has been a recent and strange development for me.  I used to love fiction, escaping my own life to read about a character who I do not know, a character who I can come to know as intimately as a friend, a character I can hope for and ultimately believe in.

I keep picking up paperbacks and browsing the covers and reading the blurbs and opening the first page, only to find that as the story continues, I could care less.

It isn’t real, I’ve been telling myself.  So why bother?

The book goes on the shelf, less than half read.

Why is it that someone as gullible as I am, who fully enjoys a good story, can no longer believe in fiction?

Has social media and reality television satisfied my curiosity to know about other people’s lives?  Can I no longer trust an author?  I pick up their books and wonder, what gives them license to write this story?  How can I know if it’s authentic?

It seems as though my preference as a reader has been steered by my current focus in my writing.  I keep being drawn to memoir.  Memoir is a genre that I previously viewed as an indulgence, but I have come to respect authors who are willing to bare all and share their stories– their real stories.  And the realness makes the stories more powerful to me.

I wonder when I will be able to read fiction again and enjoy it fully, not as a skeptic.

What will it take?

When it comes to reading, I have been more drawn to the fantastic.  I have been reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, enjoying Game of Thrones on TV.  Stories that are so unbelievable, they couldn’t be real.

I am reminded of a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez–

“The tone that I eventually used in One Hundred Years of Solitude was based on the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness…. What was most important was the expression she had on her face. She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”